OAKLAND – Gregg Popovich always had a feeling that Steve Kerr would make a great coach.
Oh sure, Popovich said Monday. I mean, are you kidding me? He played for Phil [Jackson] for 97 years.
Of course, Kerr also played under Popovich in two stints, from 1998-2001 and 2002-2003. Popovich said hes not surprised that in Kerrs four seasons coaching the Warriors, hes led them to three Finals appearances and two NBA championships.
I wouldve been surprised if he wasnt doing well, frankly, Popovich said. Hes a grown man. Hes experienced as hell. He knows what wins and loses. Hes had the experience as a GM before he did this. Hes seen it from all angles. And hes been in enough locker rooms and seen enough interpersonal relationships between players and coaches. Hes just a natural. Nothing surprises me.
Popovich said he loved coaching Kerr. He pointed out that he was smart, interested in the world and had a great attitude. But Popovich joked that Kerr would hassle him during games.
He sat closer to me because he was always trying to get me to get him in the game, Popovich said. He was always kissing up all of the time. Coach, did you see that out there? I think he made a mistake Okay, Steve, go on in.’
Kerr said he learned a lot under Popovich. High on that list: Dont make Popovich mad.
When he got upset, he used to say, I apologize for going Serbian on you guys,’ Kerr said. When Pop goes Serbian, you dont want to be in the room.
Popovich has led the Spurs to an unprecedented 21 straight playoff appearances, winning five NBA championships. Kerr said being in that locker room was an amazing experience. He had an inside look into Popovichs thinking, Popovich became one of his greatest mentors and theyve remained close friends over the last 19 years.
That being said, Kerr added that none of that helps when coaching against him.
I dont think I have any advantage at all having played for him, Kerr said. I think thats nonexistent.
Since the series began, both Popovich and Kerr have delivered eloquent speeches about how much they respect one another. They also poke each other nonstop.
Kerr joked that he cant wait to see the anguish on Popovichs face when the Spurs lose the series. And Popovich joked that Kerr is a bad person and a dishonest individual after a reporter told him about some of the compliments Kerr gave him.
Both coaches want to win. After all, their seasons hinge on this series.
But its also a particularly fun matchup for them.
Doing that against one of your best friends, were pretty lucky to be doing this, Kerr said.
Added Popovich, I enjoy it more if we beat them.